El Clasico is the first game every Barcelona and Real Madrid fan looks for on the list when the fixtures are announced in July. The Spanish football fans always look forward to the Clasico.
This season’s first El Clasico is paramount as Real Madrid have amassed a surprise six-point lead over Barca, and haven’t lost a game in the season thus far.
In stark contrast, Barcelona have lost two games this season and will be looking to close the gap on Madrid as soon as possible.
Despite the current form of Real Madrid, no one can rule out the Catalans at home especially when the Nou Camp gets to the euphoric levels; it can attain.
Madrid, on paper, head into El Clasico as clear favourites because of their current form and dominant history in this fixture since 1929. Historically, Real Madrid have the upper hand as they have clocked up 71 league victories in the 172 meetings between the two clubs.
However, in the previous 16 meetings between the two Spanish giants, Madrid have only won four games, whereas Barcelona have won ten. The victories for Barcelona included a 6-2 thrashing, a 5-0 drubbing and only last season a 4-0 humbling victory at the stomping ground of Madrid, the Santiago Bernabeu.
This season’s El Clasico will see Zinedine Zidane come up against Luis Enrique for the second time. Zidane, a former Real Madrid player, and Enrique, a former player on both sides, know how important this fixture is for the fans, the players and more importantly for them and their jobs.
Barcelona will certainly be looking for revenge as Zidane ended their 39- match unbeaten run back in April. However, the question is will this lead to any eye poking by Enrique, as Jose Mourinho did in 2011? I severely doubt it, but neither Zidane nor Enrique will let themselves be bullied into submission.
Zidane has the upper hand going into this fixture as he has led Real Madrid to an impressive 25 game unbeaten streak that stretches all the way back to his only loss as Madrid manager in February.
Players to Watch
Neymar is fast becoming Barcelona’s main playmaker. The Brazilian features as a wide player in the famous attacking MSN trio. Having amassed five assists already, Neymar is already looking to better his tally of 12 assists from last season as he runs riot down the left wing.
The Brazilian is still an ever-present threat in front of goal, finding the back of the net on four different occasions this term. Madrid will have to be wary of Neymar, as they try to clamp down on his technical ability and restrict him from attacking the open space. However, this is easier said than done.
The marauding left-back has been as vital as Ronaldo and Bale in how Real Madrid attack teams this season.
They may pop the ball into the back of the net, but Marcelo has the unique ability to cause problems in a well-drilled defence. The former Fluminense player has the fourth highest dribble percentage in La Liga, a league that contains the likes of Suarez, Griezmann and Neymar. He is only bettered by Ronaldo, Messi and Bale.
Apart from dribbling, Marcelo also boasts of the fourth highest number of critical passes. The Brazilian has become a much more reliable defender as he has matured with age, making him the complete full back and arguably the best left back in the world.
The game is expected to be a close-run affair with Barcelona going out to prove a point. The critics are starting to write them off as they try to defend the La Liga, stating that they are becoming less of a threat to sides as they once were.
However, the last time the Catalans were written off they went on to win the treble in 2014/15. But this Real Madrid side is no longer the Galacticos of the past and have taken a leaf out of Barcelona’s book regarding their squad, a potent attack with great and hardworking midfielders.
The Nou Camp will be bouncing, but I anticipate that Madrid will dampen the mood and drown out the sound as they push for a victory. A 2-1 Madrid win and Ronaldo scores the winner, well who else would?